Drosophyllum lusitanicum - Portuguese Sundew

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Caryophyllales - Family: Droseraceae

Flower of Drosophyllum lusitanicum - Portuguese Sundew

Portuguese Sundew - picture by Ron Porley

This endangered, carniverous plant species is another of the rare plants to be found in the Algarve region of Portugal. It is becoming increasingly rare due to habitat destruction and collection by fans of carniverous plants, and has been lost from many of its previously known strongholds in the region. The plant is also recorded from Spain and Morocco.

It differs from other sundews because it grows in dry, stony, calcareous habitats rather than the acid conditions in the marshes and bogs which are the usual habitat for other carniverous plants, such as Drosera rotundifolia, found in the more northerly parts of Europe.

In common with other sundew species, Portuguese Sundew catches its small insect prey by entrapping them with a sticky substance that not only emanates from the leaves but also from the stem. Once trapped the insects become asphyxiated and, following death, are eventually digested by enzymes in the leaves of the plant.

Drosophyllum lusitanicum was previously placed with other sundew species in the Droseraceae family of plants, but as a result of DNA analysis, has now been placed in a category of its own - Drosophyllaceae.

The sticky stem of Drosophyllum lusitanicum - Portuguese Sundew
Above: The stem of Drosophyllum lusitanicum clearly displaying the sticky substance which it uses to ensnare the insects on which it feeds.
Insect on Drosophyllum lusitanicum
Above: Insects trapped in the viscous droplets on Portuguese Sundew. Pictures: Ron Porley

Although the plant may be extinct from many of its formerly known central Algarve locations, it can still be found far out in the western part of the region which is where these photographs were taken.

The specimens on this page were photographed in early April in the western Algarve.

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